Struggling ambulance chiefs warn it will take two years to reach call-out targets

A North East Ambulance Service vehicle
A North East Ambulance Service vehicle
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Ambulance service officials have warned it will be at least two years before they will be able to achieve targets for reaching the highest priority patients.

Despite recruiting more paramedics the service says a shortage of funding and pressure on the service means it will be spring 2019 before they meet the Government’s targets.

There is still an issue with hand over delays at hospitals. The pathway to recovery is going to be long to achieve

Mark Cotton, North East Ambulance Service

In January, it was reported that NEAS had missed all its major targets for the time it takes to reach emergency patients.

It reached just 68% of the most serious cases in the required eight minutes, against a national target of 75%.

Representatives from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) presented their annual performance accounts to a meeting of the North East Joint Health Scrutiny Committee in Hartlepool.

Mark Cotton of NEAS told councillors from across the region the NHS had seen one of its worst ever winters for demand.

He said they were recruiting more paramedics and expect to have overturned a 25% vacancy level by next month.

He said the criteria for the Red 1 top priority calls had been widened by the Department of Health affecting response times.

Mr Cotton said: “Funding for ambulance services hasn’t matched demand.

“We are not forecasting to get back to achieving our target figures until Spring 19. There is still an issue with hand over delays at hospitals. The pathway to recovery is going to be long to achieve.”

He said no ambulance trust in the country had achieved the 75% target for reaching emergencies in eight minutes and NEAS was comparatively one of the best.

Maureen Gordon of the ambulance service said it had provided more care and advice resulting in 1,458 fewer patients needing to go to hospital.

It has also worked closely with care homes to help prevent falls thereby easing pressure on resources.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the committee welcomed the recruitment of paramedics.